Gay men create t-shirt with their blood to protest U.S. donation ban

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 14 June 2018 17:17 GMT

A model wears a t-shirt printed with the blood of gay employees at global advertising agency Mother to protest against a U.S. ban on gay men donating blood within a year of having sex. Picture taken June 11, 2018. DiChen Chen / Mother

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"Banning a specific group from performing a civic duty is stigmatising and when based on shoddy science, is clearly discriminatory"

By Emma Batha

LONDON, June 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Gay staff at a global advertising agency have created a t-shirt printed with their own blood to protest against U.S. rules barring many gay men from donating blood.

They said a ban on gay men donating blood if they have had sex in the past year was discriminatory and should be scrapped.

The red slogan on the front of the "Blood is Blood" t-shirt reads: "This shirt is printed with the blood of gay men".

On the back it says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) position that blood from gay men is "too risky" to use is outdated, stigmatising and not backed by science.

The FDA banned all gay and bisexual men from giving blood at the start of the AIDS crisis in 1983, and later limited the ban to those who were sexually active.

The blood was collected from gay staff at Mother's New York and London offices then mixed into a screen-printing ink by British artist Stuart Semple.

Mother Chief Operating Officer Corinna Falusi said that with gay donors being turned away they decided to repurpose the rejected blood into an initiative to raise awareness of the issue.

"It creates a visceral, human reaction...," said Falusi. "You read it, and it hits you."

A study by the think-tank Williams Institute estimated that lifting the ban could boost donations by 615,300 pints a year, potentially helping to save the lives of more than 1.8 million people.

Peter Meacher, chief medical officer at the Callen-Lorde LGBTQ health centre, which collaborated on the project, said the ban perpetuated the myth that HIV is a "gay disease".

"Banning a specific group from performing a civic duty is stigmatising and when based on shoddy science, is clearly discriminatory," he said in a statement.

The t-shirt went on sale in New York and proceeds will be donated to the Callen-Lorde centre.

Britain recently relaxed similar rules around blood donations by gay men to allow them to donate three months after having sex. The change follows advances in screening and an increased understanding of HIV.

(Reporting by Emma Batha, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)

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